Thanksgiving planning

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CaptureWhether you’re serving your first Thanksgiving dinner or you’ve served Thanksgiving dinner every year for many years, planning ahead can take your Thanksgiving from “Frantic to Fabulous”.

Three weeks before

  • Confirm who’s coming – in some families, this may be set a year ahead, but if it’s your turn to host,make sure to get a head-count as boyfriends/girlfriends/significant others can come and go.
  • If anyone offers to bring anything, accept with grace, and check an item off your list!
  • Plan your menu and make a list of everything you’ll serve.

Two weeks before

  • Decide where and how you will serve the dinner. Determine if the meal will be served family style at the table, as a buffet, or in courses.
  • Decide on the tablecloth that you’ll use, as well as napkins and dishes, including serving pieces, the centerpiece, place cards, and other decorations.

One week before

  • Put together the grocery list for the dinner.
  • Shop for nonperishable ingredients and a frozen turkey, unless you are using  a fresh turkey. Determine when you’ll need to start thawing the frozen turkey – allow one day for every 5 pounds, so a 25 pound frozen turkey needs to begin thawing on Saturday, 15 pound bird should be moved from freezer to refrigerator on Monday.  Note this date on your calendar.

Three days before

  • Shop for perishable ingredients for the meal. This is the time you should buy a fresh turkey if you did not purchase a frozen turkey earlier.
  • Dust, vacuum, and get the house ready for guests.

Two days before

  • Take care of the baking.  Pies and rolls can be refrigerated in plastic bags and warmed before serving.
  • Make cranberry sauce.

One day before

  • Make whipped cream. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator.
  •  Set the table with dishes, glasses,  silverware, place card, and centerpiece. Also, get out serving dishes and serving utensils. Remember to include salt and pepper on the table.
  • Peel potatoes, and cover with cool water so the potatoes don’t discolor. Put the bowl of potatoes into the refrigerator.
  • Make sweet potato casserole and refrigerate.
  • Prepare any other vegetables you’ll be serving and refrigerate.


  • Remove the turkey. Make sure you remove the bag of giblets that are packaged inside the turkey.
  • Do not bother rinsing the turkey- recent research has shown that just spreads bacteria around the kitchen.
  • Prepare stuffing and allow to cool.  Stuff the turkey while the oven is preheating. Base the time to begin roasting the turkey by the time you plan to serve the meal Remember to allow at least 30 minutes to let the turkey stand at room temperature after roasting and before slicing. The meat will then slice more easily.

One hour  before

  • Place sweet potato casserole in the oven.
  • Begin cooking potatoes.
  • Place the butter dish on the table. The butter will be slightly softened by serving time.
  • Whip the whipping cream for topping the pies if you didn’t do so the day before.

Thirty minutes before- begin final prep

  • Remove the turkey from the oven and tent with foil
  • Make gravy
  • Mash potatoes.
  • Carve turkey
  • Place all the food in serving dishes.
  • Check that list you made three weeks before to make sure you have remembered all the food.  Ask your guests to come to the table. Relax – you’ve earned it!
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